DOWNHILL FINALS RESULTS: Gee and Rachel Atherton Win Fort William World Cup Downhill 42

A victorious Gee Atherton points to the crowd - Photos by Brandon Turman

The first World Cup downhill race of 2013 is in the books. In front of thousands of cheering fans in a packed finish stadium, Gee and Rachel Atherton start off the World Cup season with victory. Race conditions remained dry, fast and loose in the highlands of Fort William, Scotland, three hours north of Glasgow, as the world's fastest downhill mountain bikers vied for the top step on the podium.

Strong head winds in the long pedaling sections near the finish proved a mental challenge for all riders as many struggled to clear the long table top jumps that were easily cleared in practice. As the Elite Men's top 20 qualifiers competed, times by racers were already approaching the fastest 4:41 mark earned by Danny Hart in qualifying the day before. Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who crashed in his qualifying run but raced as a protected top 20 rider, was the first to crack the 4:40 mark.

All eyes were on 14th place qualifier, Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing) as he dropped in. Prior to qualifying, he was the man to beat in the minds of fans and racers, but his less-than-stellar qualifying run had everyone guessing whether or not he was trying hard or taking it easy on Saturday. As his race run commenced, his first split time was 9th fastest. 2nd split time, 6th place. Could he climb to the top? He could not, finishing with a disappointing 20th place by the time the rest of the field came down. He exited the finish area immediately after his run, clearly not happy.

Next up, 2012 World Champ, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) had similar poor qualifying results to Gwin, and the MTB world expected to see a race run that made us forget about his qualifier. Greg performed. First split of 11th place at the time had us guessing, but his second split time displayed first place. The rainbow stripes must have been working as he pedaled to an incredible 4:40.777, just .019 ahead of current hot seat holder and team mate, Josh Bryceland. Greg sat in first place with 11 riders left to go."I was too tense up top," said Greg as he questioned whether or not his run would hold up for a win. Greg ended up 8th overall, not where he wanted to be.

Flat pedal rider and multiple Fort William winner, Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles), left the gate and one minute later was the fastest rider at split one, flowing through the rough upper portion of the track with ease. Eager for a strong result and return to form, Sam seemed on pace with the brutal pedaling section still ahead as he remained in first place at split 2. Pedaling be damned, Sam Hill came across the line in first place, two seconds faster than Greg Minnaar with a 4:38.843, the first rider with sub-4:40 time. Seven riders remained but Sam ended up 6th on the day.

The flat pedal battle continued as Brook MacDonald (Trek World Racing) came down the course with momentum and flow, but a first split time that was 8th place. He made up for it by showing a 2nd place time at split 2 and pedaled his heart out into first place (at the time) in front of Sam Hill with a 4:37.854. By the end of the day, Brook finished in second place on the day, only 1.1-seconds back, confirming that he is a major player on the World Cup downhill circuit.

Brook MacDonald, flat pedaling his way into 2nd place.

Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) was fastest at split one as he pushed his race run. The Canadian dropped to third at split 2 while pedaling like a mad man but couldn't quite make up the time set by Brook MacDonald. He squeezed in front of Sam Hill, just behind Brook. Four riders remained and Smith ended up in a strong 3rd place when the race completed.

Mick Hannah (Hutchinson UR) continued to build the excitement with a first place first split time by a few milliseconds. Having lost 20-pounds over the winter, Mick is fit and focused. Falling back to 6th at the second split, Mick had to make up for it in the pedaling section. Unfortunately, a win was not in the cards but the experience Australian earned a respectable 5th overall.

Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre Gravity Republic) raced next. The gloveless Kiwi was 5th at split 1, made up time to get into 3rd at split number two, but remained just off the pace. with a 4th place finish come day's end, Sam performed very strongly and looks forward to next weekend in Val di Sole. Gee Atherton and Danny Hart were the only riders left to come down.

Gee Atherton (GT Factory Racing), on a brand new bike and only .176 behind Danny Hart in qualifying, posted up the fastest time at split one as he began his race run, nearly breaking the one-minute barrier. Gee remained out front at split two and the cheers of the crowd grew louder with the pedaling section remaining. Gee made easy work of the sprint and finished ahead of hot seat-holder, Brook MacDonald by 1.142 seconds with only Danny Hart at the top of the mountain.

Danny Hart (Giant Factory Off-Road) was the last rider on the course as the anticipation mounted. A close 2nd place at split one, just by milliseconds behind Gee's split 1 time, Danny's run just faded away from there. Unfortunately the fastest qualifier could only complete the race course in 7th place, meaning that Gee Atherton took the victory, making it a double win with his sister, Rachel taking the women's victory in Scotland

"It's a pretty emotional feeling and for me it doesn't get any better than this," Gee said during a post-race interview.

Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing) proved patience and determination pays off. She obliterated her competition in the women's field by over 10-seconds with her first World Cup victory in Fort William. At 7.5-seconds up on the field before the final pedal section, Rachel took an additional 2.5-seconds out of her competition on the most mentally challenging part of the course, pedaling strong all the way to the finish. Her final time of 5:08.846 was nearly 5-seconds faster than her qualifying run from the day before. Making it a British one-two in the Women's field, Manon Carpenter finished 2nd while France's Emmeline Ragot dug deep for a 3rd place.

Rachel Atherton on her way to her first World Cup victory at Fort William.

Scott GSTAAD's Noel Niederberger proved to be the fastest and most consistent junior of the weekend. Qualifying 2nd yesterday, he kept himself and his bike in one piece to take the victory over the young guns. Fastest Junior qualifier, Taylor Vernon, flatted, putting him out of contention for the podium. Second through fifth place finishers in the Junior Men's category were all within .6 seconds of each other proving there will be some serious battles going on in 2013.

Noel Niederberger celebrates his Junior downhill victory at Fort William from the hot seat.

Elite Men's Top 20 Results - FULL RESULTS (PDF)

Elite Women's Top 20 Results

  1. Rachel Atherton, 5:08.846
  2. Manon Carpenter, 5:18.985
  3. Emmeline Ragot, 5:20.219
  4. Myriam Nicole, 5:24.296
  5. Morgane Charre, 5:25.492

Junior Men's Results - Full Results (PDF)

  1. Noel Niederberger, 4:49.931
  2. Michael Jones, 4:53.395
  3. Dean Lucas, 4:53.590
  4. Loris Vergier, 4:53.986
  5. Phil Atwill, 4:54.883
  6. Mark Wallace
  7. Luca Shaw, Specialized Racing
  8. Innes Graham
  9. Morgan Gulland
  10. Gianluca Vernassa
Related:
Create New Tag
42 comments
  • kvnsimons

    6/11/2013 10:23 AM

    Footnote: there was almost as much time between Gwin (1st) and Minnaar (2nd) at last year's Val di Sole (7.85) as there is between Atherton (1st) and Gwin (20) at this year's Fort William (8.90). The gaps are getting much, much closer. Hopefully this doesn't mean we'll be seeing spandex out there again .

  • kvnsimons

    6/11/2013 10:14 AM

    Wow, so much speculation. My guess is that it ain't about the bike. Trek, Specialized, DeVinci, Santa Cruz etc. all will get it done with the right pilot and the right suspension. I for one am happy that there are some other pros who can win. Gwin was astonishing the last two years, but it was getting boring watching him win by such large margins. Doesn't anyone remember how exciting it was when Minnaar and Gee were duking it out in '10 (?). That was the last exciting World Cup season. Now with so many old and NEW faces within seconds of each other...we finally have some racing to watch.

  • Simon_Adcock

    6/10/2013 3:56 PM

    That was incredable -more on the Privateer racer on Devinci,named Harry.Seriously impressed how Gee Atherton turned it on from his error.Hannah had the smoothest line through the trees,Harts snake line cutting the corner was creative.
    The young Guns are chomping to Win-Bryceland,Cole,Blenkensop,Brosnan.Charging.
    Hills performace aswell as Stevie Smith was a force to be rekoned with.
    Can not wait till next week with my injury gives me alot to look forward to.

  • SCparkstreetdirt

    6/10/2013 8:08 AM

    Why does Gee get the #1 plate if Gwin won the World Cup and Minaar won World Championships?

  • Barti_Attila

    6/10/2013 1:15 PM

    They give them numbers according to the world ranking, so basically Gee had the most UCI points at the time.

  • Pininator

    6/9/2013 10:00 PM

    Good on Gee for finally breaking thru once again...especially on his home track. If he wins next weekend, is everybody else going to get peregrine falcons to train with?!?

    Lots of surprises aside from Gwin finishing 20th. Also, a pretty good day for Red Bull - women's winner and top-3 in men's...can't ask for too much more. All three of them are capable of filling the top-3 next weekend, but I have a hunch there's a herd of pissed-off rivals that would love to alter that.

    Is it next Sunday yet???

  • MW

    6/9/2013 9:18 PM

    Awesome to see so many flat pedals putting down power. I would love to see a winner on flats just to buck that "no one will ever win on flat at a world cup again" aritical writen awhile back. Great racing today! Should be an exciting season.

  • Freeridewriter

    6/9/2013 8:00 PM

    huh? Why did my comment get deleted? Wasn't even controversial let alone offensive. Whats up Vital?

  • sspomer

    6/9/2013 8:27 PM

    freeridewriter, if you were replied to someone's comment and they deleted the original, your comment would go away. we didn't delete anything. here's your original, FYI - First - Congrats to the Athertons! Secondly - What in the world are you talking about? Sam Hill placed higher last year at Ft. William on a Demo 8. It was pink for that matter. It's one race. Take a look at Sam's results from last year. He has been getting progressively better, remember he was injured a lot. Whoever is the better rider this year I will congratulate.

  • powermutant

    6/9/2013 5:31 PM

    Richie Rude!

  • jinkys3

    6/9/2013 5:20 PM

    go sam go!!!

  • bbk7

    6/9/2013 3:26 PM

    Blenkinsop 4th he's back! People are reading too much into Gwin he's still quick probably made a few mistakes on his run, he's under biggest pressure. stoked for Sam Hill and Smith too

  • toddonbike

    6/9/2013 1:23 PM

    Gwinn has got to get committed. I don't think his head is in the game. Maybe he has other priorities this season? It could be anybody's race this year. Go Athertons!

  • OCsponger587

    6/9/2013 1:30 PM

    the guy that cant spell gwin right must know him real well and know his head isnt in the game or he isnt commited. these comments are funny

  • Big Bird

    6/9/2013 5:54 PM

    Gwin is spelled with a capitol G. Just saying...

  • rod.hanrick

    6/9/2013 6:14 PM

    capital is spelled with an 'a'

  • Big Bird

    6/9/2013 7:14 PM

    Touche. Did I spell that right?

  • Simon_Adcock

    6/9/2013 12:48 PM

    What happened to Brendon Faircloth-and are junior womens mixed in with pro women?

  • Barti_Attila

    6/9/2013 12:11 PM

    Hill was second at the 2nd split...must be frustrating

  • Hyperpower!

    6/9/2013 1:22 PM

    Hill was actually the fastest between split 1 and split 2, which is a little over 3 minutes.. I think he really is on the hunt.
    Can't wait for Val di Sole, hope he puts a 08 world champs run next weekend...

  • Barti_Attila

    6/10/2013 1:19 PM

    I hope to, apart from the crash. haha

  • Hyperpower!

    6/10/2013 12:24 AM

    I correct myself, Brook was slightly faster than Hill on that section, but I still think Hill will own Val di Sole..

  • knarrr!

    6/9/2013 11:48 AM

    That wasn't a case of a certain bike frame being "slow", but rather a case of some good old fashioned racing. I think you will see a very hungry Aaron Gwin at Val di Sole next weekend.

  • Josh_Verplank

    6/9/2013 11:19 AM

    You should be able to get a smokin' deal on Demo 8's now. Better pre-order your GT.

  • Jase

    6/9/2013 11:08 AM

    It might be a Specialized curse... Look at how many big riders they sign and then they don't do so well. Both Mtb and BMX. Dhers, Cook, Hill, etc. now maybe Gwin.

  • buttbongo

    6/9/2013 11:00 AM

    People love to hate on Gwin but thats the price you pay when your the best rider. He didn't have a terrible run, just not the scortcher we used to seeing. Lots of competition in top 20 riders ad today Gee was thefastest on 26s btw ad who cares about what bike ayone riders anyway. Its not the bike, its the pilot.

  • Dr. Sylesej

    6/9/2013 11:36 AM

    There is also lots of reasons to hate on Gwin. Not only is he the fastest guy. He also left his team like a douchebag.
    I liked him before, but now... Not so much.

  • Jonathan Wawrzaszek

    6/9/2013 6:50 PM

    Dr. Sylesej, I agree. A person doesn't just up and leave the team he's has been working to build. Still love Gwin, he's American and was one of if not the most successful athlete in the world last year but was not happy with his off season choices.

  • lev

    6/9/2013 10:57 AM

    If it just about the bike, then you had all better get GTs then. Get selling your out of date bikes on eBay then......

  • dirty booger

    6/9/2013 10:41 AM

    Hmmmm, just shows all the cash and marketing clout in the world can't secure a podium spot. Has Gwin ever finished out of the top 15 in the past 3 years?

    Maybe he shoulda raced a Status like the Shaw bros!

    Anyone wanna buy a carbon Demo? Haha!

  • xc2dh99

    6/9/2013 10:38 AM

    2010 demo was the WC winner. Newer ones haven't done sh-t.

  • scriz

    6/9/2013 5:47 PM

    Adam Brayton beat Gee and lots of other top guys in the BDS last week on a Demo.... can't be all that bad.

Hello Vital MTB Visitor,

We’re conducting a survey and would appreciate your input. Your answers will help Vital and the MTB industry better understand what riders like you want. Survey results will be used to recognize top brands. Make your voice heard!

Five lucky people will be selected at random to win a Vital MTB t-shirt.

Thanks in advance,

The Vital MTB Crew

Take Survey